A Catholic port chaplain in Mombasa, Kenya, has spoken about how he provided spiritual support to the crew of a fishing vessel who were not paid their wages, denied shore leave and had to endure poor living conditions on board ever since their ship was detained at the port more than two years ago.
George Sunguh from the Catholic charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) provided pastoral and practical support to the seafarers; organising Mass on board the ship, following requests by the crew. The Mass was celebrate by Rev Fr Willybard Lagho, the AoS Chaplain and the Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa.
“Mass was celebrated at the crews’ request, they had been months without spiritual support. AoS also provided faith resources such as rosaries and other sacramentals,” he said, adding that he spent time with the crew; listening to their concerns and helping them keep in contact their families back home.
The Taiwanese-owned ship, MV Lean Fong Tsai, first arrived at Mombasa with an Indonesian crew in December 2014. It was detained by Kenya Maritime Authority when port state control officers found the ship to be unseaworthy.
Repairs were still not done by 2015, so the crew were repatriated and a new crew comprising 11 Filipinos, and a Taiwanese engineer and master, were subsequently brought in to take over without the authorities’ knowledge, said George.
“The captain repeatedly told the men ‘we will sail next month’, but it never happened. The crew were only provided with rice and chicken, with no vegetables and fruit, and limited drinking water,” said George, adding that living conditions on board were dismal.
He added: “The ship owner decided to repatriate the crew without the authorities’ knowledge but one of the seafarers was able to contact police overseas. It was at this point that AoS and other seafarer welfare agencies stepped in to assist the men.”
The ship owner is currently in Mombasa and arrangements have been made for them to be repatriated. Negotiations are also being held to ensure the crew receive their wages.
AoS has also contacted its network of port chaplains based in the Philippines so that the Filipino crew can continue to be supported when they return home.
Read more about AoS here: www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk